1. Focus fully on the speaker
You can’t listen in an engaging way if you’re constantly checking your mobile phone or thinking about something else. You need to stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience in order to pick up the subtle nuances and important nonverbal cues in a conversation. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating their words over in your head—it’ll reinforce their message and help you stay focused.
2. Favour your right ear
As strange as it sounds, the left side of the brain contains the primary processing centres for both speech comprehension and emotions. Since the left side of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, favouring your right ear can help you better detect the emotional nuances of what someone is saying.
3. Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns
By saying something like, “If you think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You can’t concentrate on what someone’s saying if you’re forming what you’re going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind’s elsewhere.
4. Show your interest in what’s being said
Nod occasionally, smile at the person and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.”
5. Try to set aside the judgment
In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand them. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can often lead to an unlikely connection with someone.
6. Provide feedback
If there seems to be a disconnect, reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is…,” or “Sounds like you are saying…,” are great ways to reflect back. Don’t simply repeat what the speaker has said verbatim, though—you’ll sound insincere or unintelligent. Instead, express what the speaker’s words mean to you. Ask questions to clarify certain points: “What do you mean when you say…” or “Is this what you mean?”
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